Andrew Kamienski on Legacy and League Dreams. The Cardinals star reflects on his North Central career while the NFL takes notice.
How He Got Here
Andrew Kamienski wasn’t originally even supposed to be here. It sounds crazy now given how synonymous the senior wide receiver has become with Cardinals football. But having initially accepted a scholarship to Division 2 Winona State, he realized it didn’t feel like home. However, from the moment he set foot on campus, North Central has always felt like where he belonged.
AK: It was kind of just a blessing in disguise telling me this is where I should’ve been all along, it felt like home, it’s close to home, I can be around all my family still support, all my friends that are still close to home. So, it really was just a no brainer for me.
Jeff Thorne: He’s a throwback. He’s one of those guys, you don’t have to motivate Andrew it’s internal with him. You don’t worry about toughness from a mental standpoint, from a physical standpoint, all the things you look for in a football player Andrew’s got it and he can pull it up on demand. And when the moment is at its biggest, Andrew’s the guy who’s gonna show up. And it’s been that way since he was a freshman with us.
Opportunity and Improvement
Having played both receiver and defensive back at South Elgin high school, the coaching staff initially planned to use Kamienski to cover passes not catch them. But a bit of an injury crisis presented an opportunity and in his first season, he led the team in receptions. Four years later, he holds the conference record for receptions, has 52 receiving touchdowns, and has been instrumental in the Cardinals becoming the nation’s top D-3 program.
Brad Spencer: That’s why you do this, that’s why you coach. You coach to help improve the lives of the young men that you’re coaching on and off the field. Certainly he’s a great kid, he’s got stuff right off the field. And on the field just seeing him improve. So I think seeing his growth in understanding football, understanding defense, he’s just at such a high level that we’re able to do so many different things with him and make adjustments in game, make adjustments to our base stuff that puts him in a position to succeed.
AK: I feel like I’ve played a big role in that but, it’s not just me there’s 100 other players on the team that have adapted to our new standard, have adapted to the new way of doing things here at North Central and that’s what we’re continuing to get them up to speed and hopefully that when we’re all gone that the next class up it’s the same thing from here on out and North Central can just maintain at the top.
Taking Things to the Next Level
While his talent was immediately obvious to North Central’s coaches and fans, his Division 3 record 31 touchdown catches in 2019 drew the attention of a new crowd: NFL scouts. For Kamienski, that attention is a validation of not just a couple years but a lifetime of hard work.
AK: it’s just a great feeling for me knowing that all the hard work I’ve put in and all the stuff that I’ve done behind the scenes that nobody knows about, all the personal stuff that I’ve dealt with, and just having that as, not necessarily reassurance, but to know that that opportunity could be awaiting for me at the end of this year is just a dream come true. I’ve been doing everything since I can since I started playing the game at first grade I was 7 years old, so everything I’ve done since then has been able to set myself up for an opportunity to continue playing after college.
BS: In terms of playing at the next level I think it’s any young man’s dream coming into college to do that but you don’t necessarily expect it. After his junior year he started receiving quite a bit of attention from some of those scouts from the different organizations and that’s only grown. He came back to win a national championship, he didn’t come back to put himself in a position to play more football after this that’s just sort of become a by-product of it.
Whether in a few weeks or on December 17th in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame for this year’s Stagg Bowl, Kamienski will soon have to say goodbye to Cardinals football. He’ll of course miss the games, but said he’ll miss the time with his teammates off the field even more. He’ll also miss the men who he credits with helping him become both the player and person he’ll be when he does leave North Central
AK: another big thing I’m going to miss the coaching staff these guys have been like fathers to me since I’ve been here, they’ve opened me with open arms, I go into their office, I’m probably in their office more than anybody that they have right now. I have just a special bond with them so, North Central’s going to be my heart no matter what for the rest of my life
BS: I wish I could coach him the rest of my life to be honest with you, he’s just such a great young man
JT: Andrew’s a special player, he’s a special guy. We’ve got a pretty cool relationship. I’ll always remember him so I want to make sure we’re cherishing every day we have with him, both practices and games, the rest of the way. He’s the cheerleader when he’s not on the field. That’s not typical for your superstar players. He’s just a special guy and a great ambassador for Cardinal football.
AK: I just want to be known as the guy who came out and did his job every day, everything, he was a good leader. I want to be known as the guy who left his heart on the field, does everything for the team, a team first guy, just do everything the right way and good things happen. You know there’s so many opportunities, there’s so many different things out there where people do and they take advantage of an opportunity or they destroy an opportunity. So I just want everybody to remember that I took advantage of every opportunity I’ve had, I’ve worked for everything that I have and hard work will beat talent when talent fails to work hard.